Summary: To encourage others to take a spiritual inventory of their lives.
Before the service began one Sunday morning, a parishioner said to his pastor, “If you see me fall asleep while you’re preaching, don’t take it personally. Its not that your sermon is boring. Its just that I was taking inventory of all my merchandise last night and I didn’t get to bed until the wee hours of the morning. This is that time of the year, you know. I discovered a lot of merchandise that I didn’t sell during the year. I came to realize how many mistakes I had made. Some shelves were empty and others were full of goods that had not sold. Apparently I had bought too much of what I shouldn’t have and didn’t buy enough of others that were good sellers.” Then he asked the pastor, “Don’t you think that at the beginning of each new year every one of us should take inventory of our lives?”
In one sense, that’s what our text is all about: “Examine yourselves…” The main purpose of an inventory is to determine whether a loss or gain has been realized. We should ask ourselves how our lives have influenced others. We can learn from a look at our past, our present—and even our plans for the future. And what better time than at the beginning of a new year. So, with that in mind, let’s take at look at ourselves.
1. A LOOK AT THE PAST (Reflection)
Charles Swindoll suggests that this exercise is like “standing in front of the full-length mirror of memory.” There are two ways to look at the past and both of them have great value.
(1) Count our blessings
Since inventory involves counting, this is very appropriate. The value of counting these blessings are obvious. Or are they?
Makes us appreciate how well we are
Makes us more generous
Helps us to sympathize with those in need
We can use these memories when times become difficult
Turns our thoughts toward God
(2) Examine the Negative Aspects
Trials—teaches us patience and compassion
Failures—teaches us the value of confession
The benefit of looking at our negative past is so that we will not make the same mistakes again. As the saying goes, “Those who ignore the past are doomed to repeat its mistakes again and again.” However, don’t look too long. If you do, you may fall prey to a gloomy disposition which Satan may use to defeat you.
Jesus said that a certain man planted a fig tree. He dug about it, fertilized it and cared for it. He expected fruit from the tree, but year after year it was barren. Finally he said to the keeper, “Cut this tree down; it cumbers the ground.” The keeper interceded, saying, “Give the tree another chance, please. Give it just one more year and then if it doesn’t bear fruit we will cut it down.” The man agreed to spare the tree for another (Luke 13).
Maybe you are like that tree. Once you had a great experience with God. You promised to be faithful and fruitful. God has watched over you, cared for you, and blessed you down through the years. But you have disappointed Him. You haven’t been faithful. You haven’t born any fruit. Who knows but that you may be cut down before another year is over. But thank God, He is giving you another year. He is eternally the God of the second chance. So, if your past haunts you, resolve by God’s help not to repeat its mistakes.
2. A LOOK AT THE PRESENT
A true spiritual inventory not only includes a look backward, but also involves a careful examination of our present lives. In order to do this, two things must be scrutinized: (1) our attitudes and (2) our actions. Is our belief up-to-date? If it is then we will pass the test.
Inner attitudes always determine outward performance. The Lord works from the inside out. So if we’re not “working out our salvation,” then its likely that we have no salvation.
In Matthew 12:30, Jesus said, “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.” To be with someone in this sense means to share the same values, interests and concerns. For believers it means that Jesus’ way of life becomes ours. That’s the biblical definition of belief!
One can be for something and yet not with it. For example, you can be for marriage and yet be single. You can cheer for your favorite team and yet not be a part of them. Judas Iscariot was for Jesus, but its clear that he was not with Him!